TWENTY bushmasters will likely not be enough for Ukraine, member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters has warned.
The scale of the military challenges in front of it are simply too great, she has warned as Ukraine prepares for a new phase of the war with Russia.
"We need to be really up front about that, going forward," the opposition member said.
Ms Chesters welcomed the government's proactive response both to Ukraine's needs and to discussions about backfilling departing Bushmasters with manufacturer Thales Australia.
She urged defence minister Peter Dutton to firm up a position on orders as soon as possible.
"I know the team in Bendigo is keen for the work," Ms Chesters said.
She hoped the government would show the same urgency to resolve ongoing issues with the "sons of Bushmaster" vehicles known as Hawkeis.
The army has been reluctant to pick up hundreds of vehicles sitting on lawns outside Thales' North Bendigo factory during discussions about potential improvements.
Ms Chesters hoped any solution could open the door to Hawkeis being shipped to Ukraine too, assuming that country's military saw value in them.
Hawkeis were designed partly to be used in convoys with the people moving Bushmasters.
Mr Dutton made no announcements on Hawkeis on Friday morning.
Defence Chief Angus Campbell recently told a Senate estimates committee that Ukraine had not raised Hawkeis in their initial requests for amoured vehicles.
"We may get to Hawkeis. Not at this stage," he said during testimony last week.
The war is still far from over and there is no guarantee that Ukraine will hold the ground it has recovered from retreating Russian troops in northern and central parts of the country.
But Ms Chesters hoped policy makers in Canberra would at least begin discussions now about the role Australia could take when it was time to rebuild.
"We must be ready when the time comes," she said.
Liberal candidate for Bendigo Darren Schade welcomed the government's commitment.
"These vehicles are proudly made in Bendigo and is a testimony to the contribution that our community is making to international security through defence manufacturing," he said.
Note: comments from Bendigo Liberal candidate Darin Schade were added to this update at 4pm
DEFENCE minister Peter Dutton wants to work with Bendigo-based manufacturers on replacements for Bushmasters headed for Ukraine.
He has left the door open to new orders at Thales Australia's North Bendigo factory after confirming 20 of the armoured personnel carriers will be sent to the eastern European nation.
"There's no impact on our operational needs or requirements," he told reporters before the first of three Bushmasters were scheduled to ship out.
The first three Bushmasters were loaded onto a C-17 military plane for rapid deployment on Friday morning, a week after Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked for them in a plea to Australia's parliament.
The government committed to shipping 20 Bushmasters on Friday morning.
They will likely be sent in batches every four or five days though that could be sped up if and when new options for shipment became available, Mr Dutton said.
At least a portion of the vehicles are expected to be in Ukraine by the expected start of a new Russian onslaught in Eastern Ukraine, where the invaders might try to consolidate territory around the Donbas region.
No Bushmaster is likely to be used in Ukrainian assaults, Mr Dutton said.
"It's not a tank, it can't forward deploy to the frontline but it can move people around," he said.
Bushmasters could prove especially useful as the Russians evacuate more of their troops in areas in north and central Ukraine.
"There are reports of Russian forces laying landmines, et cetera," Mr Dutton said.
Bushmasters have previously come into their own in warzones like Afghanistan and Iraq, where Australian soldiers risked blasts from landmines and improvised explosive devices.
Mr Dutton left the door to providing more support including humanitarian aid on Friday.
BUSHMASTERS stationed in Brisbane are expected to be airlifted today, according to a tweet from manufacturer Thales Australia.
The government does not want to be drawn into specific delivery details after a request from Ukrainian officials and other western partners.
But the government has offered insights into the sorts of missions Ukraine's new Bendigo bushmasters might be deployed to.
Defence is fitting two out as ambulances, according to a joint statement from the prime minister Scott Morrison and his minister Peter Dutton.
All 20 Bushmasters will be capable of defending Ukrainian soldiers and civilians against mines and improvised explosive devices, shrapnel from artillery and small arms fire.
A Ukrainian flag has the Ukrainian flag painted on either side with the words "United with Ukraine" stenciled in English and Ukrainian.
The ambulances will have the traditional Red Cross emblem.
Each Bushmaster will be fitted with radios, a global positioning system and additional bolt-on armour to increase protection for those inside.
Defence is also working with Ukraine on a logistics support package and plans to send training videos with Ukrainian subtitles.
AUSTRALIA will gift 20 Bushmasters to Ukraine, defence minister Peter Dutton has confirmed at a Queensland press conference.
The news comes in a whirlwind 24 hours on the world stage.
The United Nations has now suspended Russia from its Human Rights Council over reports of "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" by troops invading Ukraine, according to Australian Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Russia has rejected a draft peace deal for reasons Ukraine has dismissed as "pure propaganda".
The Kremlin has said talks with Ukraine are not progressing as rapidly as it would like, and has accused the West of trying to derail negotiations by raising war crimes allegations against Russian troops, AAP says.
Moscow has denied the allegations.
More to come on the Bushmaster deal.
DEFENCE minister Peter Dutton is expected to reveal key details about any Bushmasters deal of Ukraine early this morning.
He is gathering reporters in Ipswich for a photo opportunity with Ukraine's ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko.
First division commander, Major General Scott Winter, is also expected to speak to reporters.
Bushmasters are built at Thales Australia's North Bendigo factory.
It is not yet clear whether the government will order new Bushmasters to backfill any vehicles Australia's military personnel were using.
It is also unclear whether Australia has sourced any bushmasters from other nations, particularly some in Europe, where the nation has supplied the vehicles in the past.
Newspaper The Australian is reporting that Defence will give Ukraine 20 Bushmasters with additional amoured plating.
They could prove useful in a wider tactical shift in the war.
Russia has withdrawn from large tracts of northern Ukraine and abandoned sieges of a number of key cities, including the capital Kyiv.
Both sides are now preparing for Russian assaults in Ukraine's eastern region of Donbas.
The scramble to supply the armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine began on Thursday when the country's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked for them in an address to Australia's parliament last week.
The plea won bipartisan support including from Labor member for Bendigo, who hoped any deal with Ukraine would also come with a contract for manufacturer Thales Australia to replace any Bushmasters destined for the war.
More to come.
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